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The Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty performances, 2016-2017


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Foteini Christofilopoulou was at the rehearsal for the Royal Ballet's 'The Sleeping Beauty', which opens at ROH on the 21st Dec. The photo call was of Sarah Lamb and Vadim Muntagirov in the Act 3 grand pdd.

The performances opened now (from 21st Dec)

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Vadim Muntagirov, Sarah Lamb
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Vadim Muntagirov, Sarah Lamb
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Set from DanceTabs: RB - The Sleeping Beauty (Act 3 gpdd)
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
By kind permission of the Royal Opera House

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I thought Sarah Lamb was exquisite, and Vadim Muntagirov shone as her Prince. Nothing too flashy, just a beautifully elegant response to the music. The supporting cast was excellent too - Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell gave a fine rendition of the Bluebirds (hers being one of the finest I've seen in recent years), Claire Calvert a magnificent Lilac, Kristen McNally having an absolute ball as Carabosse, Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell as fine a pair of sisters to Flori as there can be! The corps de ballet looked glorious in the set pieces too - so an enjoyable evening was had from yours truly.

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Thank you zxDaveM. You've certainly whetted our appetite for February when we're catching a few casts. Do hope Francesca and Alex are the Bluebirds in at least one performance! Kristen was fantastic in the Insight evening when helping Olivia Cowley who was new to Carabosse and I think that Insight broadcast is still available on the ROH website.

 

http://www.roh.org.uk/news/watch-rehearsals-for-the-sleeping-beauty-to-be-livestreamed-on-22-november-2016

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I thought Sarah Lamb was exquisite, and Vadim Muntagirov shone as her Prince. Nothing too flashy, just a beautifully elegant response to the music. The supporting cast was excellent too - Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell gave a fine rendition of the Bluebirds (hers being one of the finest I've seen in recent years), Claire Calvert a magnificent Lilac, Kristen McNally having an absolute ball as Carabosse, Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell as fine a pair of sisters to Flori as there can be! The corps de ballet looked glorious in the set pieces too - so an enjoyable evening was had from yours truly.

 

Yes I thought it was a lovely performance too. Muntagirov was quite astonishing technically and very touching and credible dramatically. Lamb danced beautifully though I did find her perhaps a little too sophisticated and confident, given how young Aurora is supposed to be. Hayward and Campbell were terrific Bluebirds and SO SO musical! I also thought that Hayward shone as the Song Bird Fairy; for me she was the only fairy who had that other-worldly, strange quality that a fairy should have (well I imagine a fairy should have, not having met any). The others were more like lovely young women; she came from another world. And again supremely musical.

 

I personally don't like the costumes for this production (not sure if any are new or not this time round?), except for Act II which is lovely and has a more muted palette; I find the rest a bit too pantomimic. And the performance reminded me how very challenging Beauty is; everyone was clearly stretched to their utmost. I think they will relax into it as the run continues - made me think of FLOSS's comments about how the classics keep a company on their toes (so to speak) technically.

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I thought that the opening night of Sleeping beauty went very well indeed although, clearly contrary to the majority opinion, I find the sets drab and insufficiently well-lit. Some of the costumes are strangely dark in colour (near black skirts for the corps in Act 1) and a few are positively bizarre (poor King, poor Cattalabutte, poor 4 Princes I felt myself saying).

 

The fielding of one Principal (a flutteringly gorgeous Hayward) and four First Soloists as the Prologue Fairies led to much beautiful dancing. However, despite all the individual lustre, the Prologue didn’t sparkle as much as I feel it should.

 

Claire Calvert navigated the considerable challenge of the Lilac Fairy variation very well and presided smilingly over the proceedings but she did not, for me, quite exude the benificent authority the role requires. Ryoichi Hirano’s commanding presence as her cavalier augurs well for his performances as Prince Florimund. Kristen McNally was a glamourous and malevolent Carabosse, menacing all around to great dramatic effect.

 

Sarah Lamb danced prettily throughout. Her phrasing and lightness in Act 1 were particularly lovely although she didn’t come across as a 16 year old. We all know that the role of Aurora is 'huge' in dancing terms but she must also be difficult to portray as there is not much of a character to work with. Maybe Lamb was a touch too self-contained? The charm she showed when taking applause and the warmth she gave her partner during the red run curtain calls need, perhaps, to be fed back into the earlier scenes and the Act 3 pas de deux itself.

 

I felt that the show gathered momentum and impact with the Act 2 arrival of Vadim Muntagirov as Prince Florimund. People around me (not regular ballet-goers, I think) seemed to sit up and take a keener interest. Muntagirov’s soliloquy was glorious (oh, those lines!) and his portrayal and mime have developed impressively since his ENB days in the role. He was princely but real – a character one could care about in the midst of all the make-believe. His Act 3 pdd solo was just about as awesome as it gets and garnered massive applause and cheering from an otherwise quite subdued audience. Lamb and Muntagirov look good together as they are so well-matched physically but I’m not so sure that I got a sense of chemistry between them.

 

Act 3 plaudits to Yasmine Naghdi, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, James Hay, Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell in particular. But I must end by mentioning the excellent corps who not only worked extremely hard during this first night but had also danced the General Rehearsal only hours earlier. This time of year is tough on dancers everywhere and the professionalism and standards achieved by the corps are nothing short of amazing.

Edited by capybara
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Yesterdays matinee : I've not particularly been an admirer of James Hay (I always thought he was too small for leading roles although he is perfectly proportioned) but his recent performances (Two Pigeons, Nutcracker) have rather changed my mind. Yesterday, he showed a faultless Act 3 variation, as good as McRae a few years ago, but with a more appealing style & manner. My daughter, not a seasoned ballet goer, said that she thought he was too small when he came on but that his dancing was so good he somehow seemed to grow in stature. Akane Takada danced with lush phrasing, beautiful musicality and was entirely technically secure. The grand pas was terrific, it looked well rehearsed and the fish dives were immaculate. They are well matched in style although if you like plenty of characterisation you might find them bland, I didn't. Just as well the principal roles were first rate because many of the soloist roles were not well cast. How is it possible for the Bluebird pdd to seem so dull ? Why is the Lilac fairy variation always so disappointing - is it more difficult than it looks ?

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 How is it possible for the Bluebird pdd to seem so dull ? Why is the Lilac fairy variation always so disappointing - is it more difficult than it looks ?

 

 

I suspect that they are a lot harder than they look when done well.  In my 32 years as a ballet-watcher I have seen some truly gruesome performances of Bluebird and the Lilac Fairy variation!

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I suspect that they are a lot harder than they look when done well. In my 32 years as a ballet-watcher I have seen some truly gruesome performances of Bluebird and the Lilac Fairy variation!

That reminds me of a Sleeping Beauty performance by SPBT at Sheffield some years ago. It was eye bogglingly bad and seemed to go on for about three months. When Bluebird came on the second time, a member of the audience very audibly groaned Oh please god, not again!

Edited by Jacqueline
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I can't really remember the Lilac Fairy variation very well.  I do remember Lucette Aldous performing it when the BBC showed the Fonteyn Beauty.   Is it the same choreography?

 

Edited to add that I can remember some very slow sort of arabesque half turns (sorry, I cannot describe them any better than that.)  It looked as if it required terrific balance and strength, together with the ability to make it look authoritative while remaining delightfully fairy like. 

Edited by Fonty
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The Lilac Fairy variation is apparently very difficult. In the last run I didn't see a single really good one.

 

I'm not sure I've ever seen a 'perfect' performance of this variation, no matter how good the dancer. It does seem to be incredibly (almost gratuitously) difficult, and a lot of dancers only seem to get through it by various forms of adjustment that mean it rarely feels satisfying. I always feel sorry for the Lilac Fairy since she's supposed to be so authoritative etc but is then asked to do the impossible and so has to work very hard to make up lost ground!

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I'm not sure I've ever seen a 'perfect' performance of this variation, no matter how good the dancer. It does seem to be incredibly (almost gratuitously) difficult, and a lot of dancers only seem to get through it by various forms of adjustment that mean it rarely feels satisfying. I always feel sorry for the Lilac Fairy since she's supposed to be so authoritative etc but is then asked to do the impossible and so has to work very hard to make up lost ground!

 

I recall that Lubov Kunakova and Yuliana Lopatkina (Kirov/Mariinsky) and Zenaida Yanowsky, Darcey Bussell, and Marianela Nunez (RB) all made really something of the role - not only 'managing' the solo but also overseeing the ballet with grace, authority, and 'goodness'. Interestingly, all are tall or relatively tall. Daria Klimentova (ENB) was a more diminutive Lilac Fairy but she was also a real 'presence' and her dancing was a delight.

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I always really liked Bussell as the Lilac Fairy (as I was reminded when watching the programme on her just now) - I thought it suited her down to the ground (probably not harmed by my seeing her in it for the first time and thinking "My goodness, this girl's going to be a star").  Does anyone have any idea when she gave up dancing it?

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When was the last time the Bluebirds were two Principals?

 

.......if I recall correctly, a very long time ago (the Makarova production?): Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Putrov (who also danced Aurora and Prince Florimund in the same run, I believe, albeit not with one another.

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Well this is going back rather a long way but I seem to remember Vergie Derman as being a good lilac fairy. She was a taller dancer too.

 

Does anyone know who,the role was very first created on ....all those years ago?!

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That's extremely interesting to read. I have laboured under a misapprehension for too many years it would seem...

 

Thanks, unfortunately it is one that most people have. I think it came about because Marie Petipa who created the role in 1890 was not thought to be a extremely good dancer technically, but she was considered brilliant as a character dancer (She also danced Cinderella in the 3rd Act as well).

 

According to Tim Scholl, whose book on the 1999 reconstruction of the Sleeping Beauty, I wholly recommend - it was one of the key areas of controversy that surrounded the reconstruction - because the people opposed to the reconstruction, which included almost everybody, old timers, ballet coaches - considered Marie Petipa and Nicholas Sergeyev to be persona non grata- chiefly because they got out of Russia and so were considered open to slander. Marie was written by Soviet historians to be a lazy dancer and the Lilac fairy as a mimed role who only got the variation that she deserved when Fedor Lopukhov re-choreographed the role for a later production (I think that it was the very first Soviet production in 1922). Lopukhov and Soviet historians had to justify this by vilifying Marie and Nicholas Sergeyev 

 

Also because there are two Lilac fairy variations that are notated, one is the one that the Royal Ballet dances, and is very, very technically demanding. Another has Marie's name written across the top and was thought to be not so demanding, indeed according to some people, Marie didn't dance en pointe. Now thanks to Alexei Ratmansky's reconstructon - we can see that this is absolute nonsense - you can see here -     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4EP3R8zcFQ. Also I think that the famous picture of Marie in her Valkyrie like costume that she wears in the 2nd Act has played a huge part in creating the legend that the Lilac fairy was a mimed role in the first 1890 production.

220px-Sleeping_Beauty_-Marie_Petipa_as_t

 

 

Here is Marie in the costume that she wears in the Prologue.

 

Sleeping_Beauty_-Marie_Petipa_-The_Lilac

 

Marie Petipa in the famous photo of the Lilac Fairy.

 

Hope that this has been helpful.

Edited by CHazell2
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Many thanks indeed, most useful. Interesting to see that solo: it's much more referenced to the subject matter (as in gifts and blessings to the baby) than the usual one that seems undancebale by almost anybody with any semblance of ease. Was it always like that? I don't recall Bergsma, Derman, Eyden, Mason and Wylde struggling: the first time it seemed a problem was for lovely Marguerite Porter and I've seen some real stinkers since then (Christmas spirit and etiquette forbids naming names)....

Edited by Janet McNulty
Edited to correct a name
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